The Villanova Wildcats Men’s basketball program has become one of the most successful programs in all of Division 1. Nova has become a national powerhouse, especially after their recent 2016 National Championship, the 1st in Head Coach Jay Wright’s career. This season’s team will have a much different look without Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, and Darryl Reynolds, but we expect this team to be even better than they were last year with the great recruiting class joining the team this season. Nick and Zack share their opinions with their preview for this upcoming season.
Collin Gillespie- Gillespie is a local product from Archbishop Wood High School. He has good size for a guard and can play both guard positions, an asset that is greatly coveted in a guard oriented program like Villanova. Gillespie can shoot the ball and facilitate for his teammates. I expect to see Collin become a similar player to Nova legend Ryan Arcidiacono. He most likely won’t get the type of minutes that “Arch” did in his freshman season, but I do see Gillespie playing well with the minutes he does get. Both players are about the same size and like “Arch,” Gillespie will provide high basketball I.Q. (Nick)
Omari Spellman- Spellman is an academic red shirt freshman who was ineligible to play last season. He was able to practice with the team and be on the bench during games, which allowed him to get a good feel for the Nova culture and what to expect for this season. Nova missed his size and skill set last year on a team that lacked size. Spellman has great size, but is a modern big man in the sense that he can stretch the floor with his three-point shooting ability. He can also play inside. Having a big that can play inside and out is a great asset for a team to have. I expect Spellman to be one of Nova’s most important players and could be the difference maker between them making a deep run in the tournament or simply having another first weekend exit. (Nick)
Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree- The local product from Philadelphia Catholic League power Neumann Goretti will provide Nova with much-needed depth in the front court, therefore allowing the team to be more balanced. I expect Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree to be a hard-working big who can run the court and use his athleticism to make plays above the rim and rebound the ball. (Zack)
Jermaine Samuels- Jermaine Samuels the most highly touted prospect in this year’s recruiting class. He is a versatile athletic wing that fits the mold of a typical Nova player. Competition with Mikal Bridges in practice will teach him a lot and help to continue the growth of his overall game. Expect Samuels to provide versatility on the offensive end, but also be a good defender that can guard multiple positions. (Zack)
Nova’s Key Players
Jalen Brunson (Junior)- Brunson is an extension of his head coach on the floor. Jalen plays with an extremely high basketball I.Q. and rarely makes mistakes on the floor. He can take over games with his scoring if needed, but his greatest asset is facilitating and running the show for his team. For as great of a season that Josh Hart had last year, if you compare their numbers, both players stats were very similar. Brunson will be one of the best point guards in the country. (Nick)
Phil Booth (Redshirt Junior)- Phil Booth is a combo guard who can shoot the ball and can use his deceptive quickness to get to the hoop. I expect Booth to come back strong after last season’s injury. The nice thing about Booth is that he can either start or come into the game off the bench. Many people forget and overlook that Phil Booth was having a great game in the 2016 National Championship and understandably so after how that game ended with Jenkins hitting arguably the greatest game winner in basketball history. Booth can carry the team offensively if needed. (Nick)
Donte DiVincenzo (Redshirt Sophomore)- DiVincenzo really elevated his game last March during postseason/tournament play. The potential for a breakout year is a possibility. DiVincenzo is a versatile and athletic guard who can use that athleticism to get to the rim, but he can also shoot the ball as well. On the defensive end, he is a scrappy player that plays with high energy. That is a great quality that Nova typically strives to have. My concern is that he can have some mental lapses at times, which can hurt the team. (Zack)
Mikal Bridges (Redshirt Junior)- Mikal Bridges is a versatile player who has improved his three-point shooting. Bridges can use his long frame to get to the basket and finish at the hoop. That length also allows Mikal to be a lock down defender to get steals and lead the fast break. His all-around play has drawn the eyes of the NBA, but if Bridges wants to show his true NBA value, he is going to have to have more of a “take over the game” type of mentality. If he can do that, he will be one of the best two-way players in the NCAA. Whether he leaves for the NBA after this season or stays all four seasons, I think Bridges will be a good “Three And D” type of player in the NBA. (Nick)
Eric Paschall (Redshirt Junior)- A common trend with Nova players is versatility. Paschall fits that description as well. He is an athletic and strong player who can use his strength inside to score and crash the boards. He could fill the hole left by Kris Jenkins. With that said, Paschall doesn’t shot the ball as well as Jenkins did, but he is more than capable to knock down some threes. His best asset to the team is using his strength inside to get rebounds and easy baskets on hustle points. If he can make threes at a high rate, he can elevate Nova to an even scarier team than people already expect them to be. (Zack)
Nick’s Overall Projection: I believe that Nova is once again the favorite to win the Big East Conference. I feel that the team will be better this year than they were last year. The team has loads of talent and the addition of Omari Spellman should be the big difference maker that the team needs. If Jalen Brunson continues to play at a high level and Mikal Bridges can elevate his game to the next level, I don’t see why this team can’t compete with anyone in the country and be a legitimate National Championship contender.
Zack’s Overall Projection: I agree with Nick that the Wildcats will be a better team from top to bottom this year than they were last year. The team is deeper and more balanced. I expect them to win the Big East Conference again. Nova will also be in contention for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and is a legitimate threat to win the National Championship. If Jay Wright can get the team to gel, they can compete with any team in the country, including a team like the Duke Blue Devils.
Authors: Nick Eberhardt And Zack Weed